I love walking through life hand in hand with my foreigner husband. I love the looks on people’s faces when they see a small American white girl holding hands with a Middle Eastern man. I love the questions people ask and the awkward stares. I love explaining our love story to people. When Jaber and I first met I had so many opinions thrown at me. I faced many questions and concerns from good friends. I appreciated their concerns and took each opinion into consideration. I thought it was fascinating to hear what people thought. I was told that marriage would be hard because we were so different. I was warned that Arab men are stubborn, controlling, and deceitful. I was warned that “those type” of men control their women. I was asked over ten times if I had seen the movie, “Not Without My Daughter.” This movie is about an American women who gets kidnapped by her Muslim husband when they visit his home in Iran. I also was warned that Middle Eastern men lie in order to get green cards and that he could actually be a terrorist. Many people told me to never leave the country with him. I heard more than most people hear when they are considering marriage with a man.
Well after much consideration (a few days haha) I decided that I would marry him. Through reading and praying, God gave me much peace. I wrote about this a few weeks back. I realized that the rest of my life I would have to explain why I married him. When I first got engaged many people thought I was naive, desperate for a husband, or just plain crazy. I knew what I was doing the whole time 🙂 Life with Jaber has been wonderful and we have learned SO much. We knew that we would have to work EXTRA hard because of our different backgrounds. Truth be told…this extra work should be done in ALL relationships. Here are a few tips for those of you who are in a relationship with someone. It doesn’t matter if you marry your neighbor or a person from across the world…they will be different than you and you will have to learn how to do life together.
- Learn about where your significant other came from. Ask lots of questions about how they grew up, what traditions they shared, likes, dislikes, and the things that were hard in their families.
- Examine what gender roles they grew up with. If a man grew up with his mom always doing the dishes, then he probably will expect his wife to do the dishes. If the woman grew up with her dad doing the dishes or both shared the responsibility…there most likely would be conflict and hurt feelings over who should do the dishes. The same goes along for any responsibility such as taxes, finances, cooking, etc. We learn how things work in our families and develop EXPECTATIONS. Jaber and I went to a marriage conference where Les and Leslie Parrot shared a funny story about expectations. Leslie stated that on road trips her dad ALWAYS took charge of navigating. He loved being the one to map out the directions for their trip. In Les’s family his mom did all the navigating. When Les and Leslie went on their first road trip as a married couple it started off extremely rocky to say the least. It took them a few days to realize that their conflict came from unmet expectations that they didn’t even realized they had.
- Communicate how you are feeling with your partner. If you are feeling hurt, you can’t expect the other person to read your mind. They might have no clue what’s going on even if it seems really obvious to you. Try to assume your partner is not trying to hurt you.
- Listen to your partner and don’t get defensive when they share their feelings. I caught myself telling Jaber that he shouldn’t feel a certain way one time because I was only doing what I had always done. I later learned that Jaber’s feelings are more important and that I should be willing to change things in order to put him first.
- Make sure you really understand what your partner is saying. My husband’s first language is not English. He occasionally says something that he didn’t mean to say and initially I get upset. Later when I give him the chance, he explains what he really meant to say. Even if your spouse doesn’t speak a different language…they may mean to say something different than what you hear.
The bottom line is that relationships take work. It is important to always put your spouse first and love them unconditionally. Learning how to love them will take time. I have learned how to love Jaber by studying him! 🙂 He grew up in a house where they ate all of their meals together as a family (he is the youngest of 11 kids). They had lunch and dinner at the same time EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK. I grew up with more diversity in the way we ate our meals. I have learned that Jaber wants our family to eat our meals together every night. In order to love my husband well I need to be willing to change what was normal for me. We make compromises and start our own family traditions.
CHALLENGE TO YOU
No matter how long you and your partner have been together take the time to continue learning how to love them. Try asking questions and be willing to compromise on things that are different from the way you grew up. Listen, forgive, and ALWAYS love.
In all reality…every married couple is doing life with a foreigner 🙂
Love to love,